The Hunger Games are over for another year, and Katniss and Peeta are home. Yet though the Games have finished, the acting has not. After their triumph in the arena, they have become celebrities, and the Capitol is uneasy. Katniss and Peeta's small acts of defiance have inspired the viewers, and revolution is in the air. Katniss and Peeta have made a dangerous enemy, and it is only time before they are thrust into the limelight and the action once more.
In my review of The Hunger Games, I stated that I was disappointed that Katniss did not take more of a stand against the Capitol and the regime that enforces the barbaric scheme. I stand corrected. In such a repressive society, even "token" acts of rebellion are enough. Katniss's defiance of the regime was subtle but insidious and people all over the country of Panem are saying, "enough is enough." The Capitol is worried. Like a chip in a car's windscreen (as I am reminded by the Autoglass ads on the radio) where the Capitol's authority is not absolute, there it is endangered. If people can express discontent with tyranny, sooner or later they will, and another uprising is inevitable.
A spark could be enough to set them ablaze.In the second chapter of Catching Fire we are introduced to the president of Panem. President Snow, who smells of roses and blood. A fitting name, Snow, for this man makes me feel cold just to read about. In just one chapter, I can see him clearly: cold and ruthless with a thin veneer of charm that just accentuates his cruelty.
In Catching Fire, Katniss and Peeta find themselves once more in the arena for a second round of the Hunger Games, the seventy-fifth anniversary of the last uprising and the Capitol's victory. To commemorate, and also to have a legitimate chance to kill off these troublemakers once and for all, the Capitol decrees that the contestants should be chosen from previous victors - a "best of" show, if you like. I had thought that this would make dull, or at least a little repetitive reading, but I should have known better. Things are different this time. We get to know the rival contestants better as individuals, and it is even more upsetting to remember that they are not meant to survive, that even as Katniss grows fond of her companions, she means for them to die in the end.
Katniss chooses different tactics this time, and we get to see the Games from a different angle - similar scenes up close where last time they were from a distance, teaming up with some other contestants rather than going it for the most part alone. The challenges they face are markedly different too. Like the Gamemakers, Suzanne Collins knows how to keep the idea fresh. But if I was a little disappointed with the ending of The Hunger Games, Catching Fire makes up for it, fulfilling the criteria I had regretted not being there in the first book, and keeping me glued to the pages. And what an ending! A cliffhanger that ensures I will be picking up Mockingjay as soon as this review is finished (so please excuse any typos.)
A note on the love triangle: before reading this book, I read enough about "Team Gale" and "Team Peeta" to know that Katniss was conflicted about which she loves. I was surprised to discover that Gale doesn't actually appear that much in the story, and although is a good character, I don't yet feel I know him very well. Unlike many love-triangle stories, though, I have genuinely no idea which - if either - Katniss will end up with in the long run.
I can't deny it any more. The Hunger Games does live up to the hype, or very nearly. I don't know why, or how - I can't put my finger on the secret, but it does. It is just very good, gripping and well-written, causing the reader to truly emphasise with the characters and feel hatred against the tyrannical regime. And, unusual in teenage books, especially those with love triangles, none of the characters annoy me.